The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is promising to include information about a Jewish effort to rescue European Jews during the Holocaust in its permanent exhibition, following two petitions signed by more than 270 Holocaust scholars, Jewish leaders and descendants of Holocaust rescue activists.
The David S. Wyman Institute started collecting signatures for the petitions after Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel publicly urged the museum to mention the Bergson group in its exhibit last month.
Currently, the museum refers to Peter Bergson on its Web site, but not in its permanent exhibition.
Through protests, newspaper advertisements and lobbying, the controversial Bergson group managed to raise awareness of the plight of European Jews during World War II and to speed the creation of the War Refugee Board, which helped rescue more than 200,000 European Jews in 1944 and 1945.
In the 1940s, however, mainstream Jewish organizations were very critical of the Bergson group, particularly because of its ties to right-wing Revisionist Zionism and Jewish militants.
In a letter made public Tuesday, museum curator Steven Luckert said that the segment of the permanent exhibit about the War Refugee Board would be revised to include photos, artifacts and new text about the Bergson group. The museum expects this new section to be ready by early spring 2008.
Wyman Institute director Rafael Medoff had been privately discussing the matter with Luckert for five years.
“We understand that it takes time to make changes, but five years is long enough,” he said.
One of the petitions to the museum was signed by descendants of rabbis who marched in Washington in 1943 to ask for rescue efforts. The march was organized by an Orthodox rescue committee and by the Bergson group. It is mentioned very briefly in a movie in the museum, and petitioners asked that it be given more prominence.
“Visitors to the museum need to know about those Americans who spoke out for rescue,” the petition said.
— Claire Levenson
Big Gift From a Broad
Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad will give $1 million to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Broad, 74, founder of the home builder KB Home and the insurer SunAmerica, has reportedly donated $2 billion to charitable causes in the past five years, but few of his major gifts have gone to Jewish causes. He gave $26 million to Michigan State University to build a new art museum on the campus, for instance.
“It’s good to remember the Holocaust and to say never again, but you also want to show the positive,” said Broad, who is Jewish. “I don’t think a lot of Americans realize the total contribution American Jews have made since the founding of the republic.”
The new Museum of American Jewish History will be built a block from its current location across the street from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Broad’s gift brings the total fundraising for the project to $102 million, en route to a total of $150 million. The museum is set to break ground on September 30 and is expected to open on July 4, 2010.
ORT Battle Ends
ORT Israel must cease using the ORT logo when fundraising in the United States, a U.S. District Court judge ruled.
ORT Israel broke away from World ORT less than a year ago because it said the organization, which oversees Jewish-based vocational schools in nearly 60 countries, did not allocate the Israeli organization enough money. ORT Israel, which manages more than 150 schools for 100,000 Israeli students, also complained about other financial issues, such as the high salaries it said World ORT paid to top officials.
American ORT, which raises funds for World ORT in the United States, filed suit to prevent its former Israeli partner from using the ORT name.
In its recent injunction, a New York court wrote in enjoining ORT Israel from using the logo “that the ORT mark is strong and inherently distinctive.”